Nine of the top 10 vehicles in the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy rankings for the 2010 model year are hybrid gas-electric vehicles—putting to rest any question about the technology’s ability to wring more miles from a gallon of gas.
The list also reveals the trend of more hybrid models coming out from a wider group of automakers. Six different car companies now make hybrids. “There’s now a hybrid for everyone,” the EPA said in releasing the latest findings. “It’s not either a Prius or a Insight anymore.”
The Toyota Prius was once again the leader, with fuel economy of 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. Other vehicles in the top 10 include the Ford Fusion Hybrid and its Mercury Milan twin, the Insight and Civic Hybrid from Honda, and the Nissan Altima. The only non-hybrid on the list was the tiny Smart ForTwo, which is rated at 33 mpg city/41 highway.
Japanese carmakers dominated the annual rankings, placing eight gas-electric hybrids in the Top 10—but Ford is now threatening to become the single American company to join the upper echelon of hybrid makers. If current trends continue, Ford will soon overtake Honda as the second biggest seller of hybrids—behind Toyota which sells more hybrids than all other carmakers combined.
Ford’s hybrid sales have increased by 73 percent this year, due to the success of the new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the sustained popularity of the Ford Escape Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. “More than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been from non-Ford owners, and more than half of those are customers coming from import brands, mostly from Toyota and Honda,” said David Finnegan, Ford hybrid marketing manager.
Meanwhile across the pond, Toyota was recognized this week as the “greenest” manufacturer in the United Kingdom, according to research conducted by Clean Green Cars. The award is based on CO2 emissions of an automakers entire lineup of cars and averaged by sales per unit. Based on the findings, Toyota is the first carmaker in the UK to drop below the 130g/km level for mean carbon emissions across its model range. The company’s new minicar, the Toyota iQ, helped it earn the award.
The Prius’s top ranking from the US EPA will be challenged next year by new plug-in hybrids and electric cars hitting the market. The EPA is struggling to establish meaningful comparisons between gas- and diesel-powered cars, hybrids, and plug-in cars—a potentially difficult calculation because it depends on multiple factors such as the number of miles driven, the distance of all-electric range, and the mix of energy sources used by a regional utility. The pressure on the EPA will continue to grow, because the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and Nissan Leaf electric car will be introduced next year. The all-electric Tesla Roadster was not included in this year’s ranking.